The title chosen for this book is taken from the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians where the greatest of all missionaries there described and summed up the message which had been given him to deliver as "The Word of the Cross". He preached Yah'shua (Jesus) as crucified to the men of the two great types of thought and civilization making up the world in which he lived. This Word was, at the first, to Jews a stumbling-block, and to Greeks foolishness; but, in course of time, both the Messianic belief and hope of the one and the wisdom of the other have interpreted, confirmed and enriched the story of the doctrine of the Cross. And, in every age, to those who have received and understood it in any measure, this Word has been to them a power of God in the process of being saved.
I trust, therefore, that none of my Indian friends will find either aloofness or disparagement in the title. Hinduism is one of the main religious systems of the Eastern world: it was the characteristic product of India, and it remains today the prevalent mode of thought and worship in the country. The Hindu represents one of the great types of the religious mind; and just as the crucified Yah'shua (Jesus) had something of infinite moment to say to Jews and Jews and to Greeks as Greeks, so He has something to say to Hindus as Hindus. There is a particular Word of the Cross for them.
The attempt is made here by one of the West to see the Cross against and beneath an Indian sky. The results of such an exercise of mind and spirit may be as instructive and helpful to the Christian minister in England as to the missionary in India. The Word of the Cross to Hindus has a world-wide interest and significance: we all may hear it in a new and fuller message to ourselves.
The Christian teacher - even the most learned and spiritually discerning - cannot approach this subject with any feeling other than sacred dread. It makes so searching proof of his understanding in the Gospel; it measures so surely what depth and reality there are in his God-ward life; it demonstrates so cloearly the limits of what he knows and feels of the mind of Christ and can reproduce in the habit of his thought and speech. Some of the great sayings of the Gospels which linger in the memory of the reader are the words that were false in their aplication to Yah'shua of Nazareth. There was, for example, that implicit condemnation of Him by His Pharisee host - "This man, if He were a prophet, would have known ..." The next moment it was to be so graciously and so devastatingly refuted. He was a prophet, and He did know both the man who invited Him and the woman who came unbidden. Of the same kind is that word of the Samaritan woman - "Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep" - so untrue of the Master, and often felt by the disciple to be so true of himself. The Dreamer saw a sepulchre near to the Cross, into which the pilgrim's burden rolled and was no more seen. There is also a well, a deep well of truth, beside that Cross. The water drawn from it has revived the drooping souls of travel-stained and wearied men: it has brought them back to life and purity and continually refreshed them with strength and gladness. If this lecture shall carry one fresh cupfull of everlasting truth to the lips of the doubting and the tempted I am content.
In so far as this book puts forward a doctrine of the death of Christ, let it be judged by what it says and not by what it does not say. For the writer's generation, Dr.Moberley's Atonement and Personality probably still is the most helpfuyl and suggestive work in the English language. His warning anhd counsel are not yet out of place:
How great, then, is the necessity that in this missionary epoch - with an India convulsed, rapidly changing, and seeking her way to a life and place in the world - the Messianic Community in India should consider and should know what is the Word of the Cross to Hindus.
"Our explanations, at their best, are still always partial explanations ... Our insight into the doctrine may be adequate. That it should be exhaustive is inconceivable. All explanations must be given with this reserve. They are not, and never can be, thw whole truth ... The doctrine itself remains, and will remain, something more and truer than the largest and truest explanations of it in human imagery and human language. These do reflect it, vitally and really enough, to those whose natural language and imagery they are. But they are less than it, and cannot express it fully to all minds in all times. There is a sense in which every Church period - there is a sense perhaps in which every Church member - must find its living interpretation, in his own terms, for himself."
1st edition, July 22, 1933
2nd edition, September 22, 2003